By Tim Shufelt
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Chris Bentley visited Ryerson on Wednesday for what was billed as an announcement of millions in new funding for colleges and universities in the GTA.
But instead, postsecondary presidents, reporters and a selection of Ryerson students gathered in Kerr Hall for what turned out to be an announcement of money already pledged in last spring’s provincial budget. “They do this all the time,” NDP education critic Rosario Marchese told the Eyeopener.
“Last year they had four or five press conferences in the span of a month announcing the tuition freeze.” The government was re-announcing money to improve quality of education in the GTA.
GTA schools received $57.2 million, including $8.3 million for Ryerson to hire new faculty and support staff, and improve library, academic and computer lab resources. Ryerson used some of that money to dramatically improve the computer lab in Kerr Hall West, where the event was held.
What was once a dingy room with decades-old furniture was completely renovated over the holidays with new lighting, carpeting, workstations and computers. On Wednesday, each new flat screen monitor displayed the logo “Reaching Higher” — the government’s slogan for their postsecondary education plans.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be up here… with the students,” Bentley said, with Ryerson students assembled behind him. “Because at the end of the day, that’s who it’s all about.” Directly behind Bentley, Ryerson Students’ Union President Rebecca Rose — an unlikely government booster — smiled and shuffled her feet.
She was joined by CESAR President Jeremy Salter and RSU Vice-President Education Nora Loreto. Loreto said there are times when it’s important to be cooperative with the government. “You schmooze when you have to schmooze, and you fight when you have to fight.” But she added that while the money is desperately needed, the event was nothing more than a public relations exercise. Aside from Rose, Salter and herself, Loreto said the students on hand were all members of the Ryerson Young Liberals.
“The entire thing was staged,” she said. At a similar, but less controlled, funding announcement at the University of Western Ontario a few days prior, many students focused on the impending rise in tuition fees expected to be announced next month. But Ryerson’s student representatives were on their best behaviour.
“That’s not the place to do the lobbying… there’s no reason to be hostile all the time,” Loreto said. She even agreed to remove her button advocating lower tuition fees.
In exchange, she said event organizers guided reporters her way after the announcement. She used the opportunity to denounce tuition fee increases, she said.